Research shows connection between hard to read fonts and memorization

New research finds that, opposed to common belief, font size plays no part in memory. However, font style significantly impacts the amount of material people retain in any subject.

One long understood fact about memory is that people’s perception of how much they’ve learned about a subject is usually pretty off. Experts are paying closer attention to these common memory misperceptions as more people do the majority of their learning unsupervised. “It’s crucial to be able to monitor that learning accurately; that is, to know how well we know what we know, so that we avoid fooling ourselves,” said psychologist Robert A. Bjork.

Studies find that people’s mistakes in judgment are made because of common biases. The majority assume that new facts will long be remembered and don’t believe they need to continue trying to commit it to memory. Because these thoughts are subconscious, even when people know that they probably won’t remember it with the small amount of study time they have devoted to learning the information, something in their brain tells them it’s okay to stop.

A study done by researchers at Harvard and Duke recently showed overconfidence is a result of the brain’s natural tendency to find shortcuts.

The study had college students take a test that they believed to be an IQ test. A portion of the students were given an answer key with the test and were told “to check their answers afterward” and the others didn’t receive one.

Those who received a key glanced at the answers and did better on the test than those who were without an answer key. The students who used an answer key were asked how well they thought they would do if they had to take another longer test without an answer key, to which they confidently predicted they would score much higher compared to the responses of those without a key.

After all the students took the second test without an answer key, the students who had an answer key during the first test did no better than the others.

Memorization occurs when the memory muscles are exercised. Even though it feels like there is less progress made than the first time you encounter a new piece of information, your brain is actually working harder the second time around to make new connections and devote it to memory.

When people were asked what words they would remember with the most ease they chose the words that were shown to them in large fonts — the ones that were easiest to read. This is another subconscious mind-trick known as fluency, or rather the ease in which a piece of information is processed.

However, studies have shown that the harder the material is to read, the more information is retained. The reason behind this is that information given in unfamiliar font causes the reader to slow down and focus.

How can you use this information to your benefit and decrease your study time by increasing the reading difficulty of your study material?

Reference:  “Come on, I thought I knew that!”

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